Madam Speaker, I really do appreciate your wise comments. I will be splitting my time with the member for Thornhill this evening.
Let me start by saying why we are here tonight. Again, the Liberals are refusing to consult, refusing to allow reasonable amount of input and debate on another piece of controversial but very important legislation, Bill C-71. What has been exposed by the very limited conversation so far is that Bill C-71 effectively breaks another Liberal promise, the promise not to bring back the wasteful, ineffective long-gun registry. I want to thank my constituents in Oshawa for their input and insight into this bill.
To start, Conservatives support public safety, safe and effective legislation, and we also respect the fact that firearms owners in Canada are, by and large, law-abiding citizens. We believe that no government should take punitive action against those who uphold the law.
I was proud to be part of a Conservative government that eliminated the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. It was a good example of how poorly thought out, wasteful policy is ineffective at reducing crime rates by targeting law-abiding gun owners, instead of criminals who, by the way, do not register their firearms. That is why I cannot, in good conscience, support Bill C-71, which does nothing to address the issue of criminal unauthorized possession of firearms and gang violence, places new burdens on business and law-abiding firearms owners, and opens the door for a new registry.
As I said, Bill C-71 does nothing to address the issue of criminal, unauthorized possession of firearms. Let me emphasize this point. The Liberals seem to have difficulty understanding that criminals are not law-abiding firearms owners. Therefore, the provisions included in Bill C-71 will not affect criminals, who do not follow laws to begin with. Thus, it is highly unlikely that they will follow provisions included in Bill C-71.
In an expert submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security regarding Bill C-71, Dr. Gary Mauser, a Canadian criminologist and professor emeritus in the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, stated that Bill C-71 is a red herring and would be regarded as a failure to fulfill the Liberal government's promises to develop criminal legislation using evidence-based decision-making. Tonight we have not heard very much of that evidence, have we?
I support Dr. Mauser's view. I feel that the Liberal government is trying to create a problem where one does not exist. For example, the Liberals are intentionally using a low outlier year of 2013 to justify saying that homicide rates are increasing. Realistically, firearms homicides have gone up since 2013. However, our overall firearm homicide rate has been steadily falling since the 1950s. This is a point that the Liberals are intentionally misleading Canadians with. Total homicides, have declined at least since the 1990s, and if anything, knife stabbings in Canada have increased more dramatically. The Liberal government's statistics also leave out the fact that these homicides are primarily driven by gang murders. The majority of Canada's gun violence stems from illegal gang and similar criminal activity. However, this bill mostly focuses on gun licence holders, and not violent criminals or gangs. If we think that the homicides are driven by gangs and criminals, we should be focusing legislation against them.
Gang-related activity and repeat offenders make up the bulk of the 223 homicides in 2016. Some 141 of the 223 homicides were related to gang activity. That is well over half. Let me reiterate that criminals do not register their firearms. It seems this is becoming a theme.
I just want to briefly raise the issues with another Liberal bill, Bill C-75 which also fails to deliver tough on crime approaches. Bill C-75 aims to do away with preliminary inquiries and seeks to lower the maximum sentencing for terror and gang-related offences. In other words it is getting softer on crime. How can the government justify weakening penalties for Canada's gang and criminals while at the same time targeting law-abiding Canadians? This just does not make sense.
Let me address another thing that the Liberals are being misleading about, which is the process of applying for and receiving firearms licences. It is very important, and Canadians need to understand, that we are not the United States. In order to qualify for a licence, one must complete safety training and learn the rules that govern the privileges these licences afford one. Not everyone is eligible for a firearms licence. One must be a responsible Canadian citizen who does not have a criminal record and be mentally stable.
The first step in the process is to take a firearms safety course. The courses are dictated by the licences someone is intending to apply for. There are two different licences that could be applied for, a PAL and an RPAL, respectively. The first licence is a basic firearms licence, which allows one to buy and possess the types of firearms primarily used for hunting purposes, for example, rifles and shotguns. The second licence is a restricted possession and acquisition licence, which allows one to buy and possess firearms that are permitted by law for sporting and hunting purposes in Canada.
Each course has a written and practical exam that one must score 80% or better on to pass. Each course focuses on the safe handling of firearms and the responsibilities of ownership. These courses are the same across the country.
Then, step two, once someone has passed the courses, they can submit their license application to the RCMP for review and processing. This process and background check can take six to eight weeks.
I repeat, this is a process that criminals will not follow. Bill C-71 only penalizes law-abiding gun owners and small businesses. Criminals continue to operate in the shadows and will continue to ignore any federal legislation. Law-abiding gun owners and small business owners are then left feeling the burn of Bill C-71.
Small businesses will be burdened with unnecessary red tape, as this reintroduces a wasteful and ineffective firearms registry. The unnecessary red tape will be of no benefit to public safety, and will only make transportation of firearms to a gunsmith or a gun store more onerous.
The bill is forcing businesses to keep 20 years of records. In fact, I visited a local firearms retailer in Oshawa, CDNGunworx, to discuss the impact this bill will have on small business. I learned that Bill C-71 is increasing the costs of doing business for many small businesses like this one.
These unknowns make Bill C-71 all the more concerning, as the additional costs, money, and resources could be the final nail in the coffin that will put hard-working business owners in jeopardy of failing to keep their business afloat, all without increasing public safety.
Again, I want to point out that Bill C-71 gives the RCMP overreaching authority. It will increase the power of the RCMP to reclassify firearms at a moment's notice, which would make otherwise law-abiding gun owners criminals overnight. For example, Bill C-71 reclassifies an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 non-restricted rifles as prohibited, and turns their owners into immediate criminals unless they comply with new ownership requirements.
Carlos, a young constituent of mine, voiced his concerns to me in regards to providing the RCMP with the power to classify firearms. With this bill, firearms he currently collects can be banned by the RCMP at any moment, forcing him to either turn them in or become a criminal, and he will not be compensated for his lawfully owned property.
Our previous Conservative government allowed for our elected representatives to overrule any of these RCMP mistakes, and allow individuals to keep their legally owned property by exercising a democratic mechanism. No such mechanism will exist under Bill C-71. There will be no mechanism to correct the mistakes made by the RCMP.
Recently in fact, the RCMP was bold enough to launch, on its website, a page that formally read: “How would Bill C-71 affect individuals?”
To be clear, Bill C-71 is not law. The RCMP quickly changed the wording on the web page, but the damage had been done. The RCMP obviously felt that it could pre-emptively tell Canadian citizens to comply with a law that had not yet achieved royal assent. This had only been corrected after my colleague, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, pointed it out. This is a glaring issue that Canadians need to know about.
Bill C-71 opens the door for a new registry. We have heard Liberals say tonight that it will not, but it very clearly will. They say it will not be a registry, but it mentions the word “registrar” 15 times, the word “registration” 17 times, the term “reference number” 12 times, and the word “record” 26 times. If this is not a registry, I do not know what else is.
Record keeping conditions are placed on businesses, including information collected for 20 years. Records would be accessible by police officers on reasonable grounds and with judicial authorization. However, the government would essentially have businesses build and maintain the registry on its behalf. Businesses would have to pay the higher costs for it.
In conclusion, I hope I have made it abundantly clear that Bill C-71 will not impact criminals or stop illegal firearms practices, as the Liberal government claims. It in fact targets law-abiding firearms owners and harms small businesses. It opens the door to a gun registry 2.0, and gives overreaching powers to the RCMP. I stand with law-abiding Canadians, not the criminals.